NEW YORK (AP) — Top aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo altered a state Health Department report to obscure the true number of people killed by COVID-19 in the state's nursing homes, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported late Thursday.
The aides, including the secretary to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, pushed state health officials to edit the July report so only residents who died inside long-term care facilities, and not those who became ill there and later died at a hospital, were counted, the newspapers reported, citing documents and people with knowledge of the administration's internal discussions.
The report was designed and released to rebut criticism of Cuomo over a March 25 directive that barred nursing homes from rejecting recovering coronavirus patients being discharged from hospitals. Some nursing homes complained at the time that the policy could help spread the virus.
The report concluded the policy played no role in spreading infection.
The state's analysis was based partly on what officials acknowledged at the time was an imprecise statistic. The report said 6,432 people had died in the state's nursing homes.
State officials acknowledged that the true number of deaths was higher because of the exclusion of patients who died in hospitals, but they declined at the time to give any estimate of that larger number of deaths, saying the numbers still needed to be verified.